When a yoga teacher tells you to engage your core, sit your hips back, and throw your arms over your head to settle into a chair pose, you know you’re in for a challenge. With each passing breath, your muscles start to shake, and your brain is begging you to fall into a forward fold for some release. But the benefits of sticking it out until the end will serve you long after you step off the mat, according to Jessamyn Stanley, yogi, author, and founder of The Underbelly.
In the first episode of The Well+Good Podcast, Stanley, along with author, racial justice educator, and spiritual activist Rachel Ricketts and wellness entrepreneur Kristen Bell, sat down with Well+Good general manager Kate Spies to chat about why the conversation around “wellness” shouldn’t be limited to exclusive (and expensive) practices and rituals that will cost you half of your paycheck. And one of the best free things you can do for your mind and body, says Stanley, is to let go of your limiting beliefs. To help you do that, Stanley offers a metaphor every yoga practitioner can relate to.
“A chair pose is a pretty common yoga pose that I think is very challenging,” says Stanley. “It’s the sort of thing that you see somebody do in pictures and you’re like ‘Yeah, I got that,’ but then you start practicing and you’re like, ‘Oh my God, this is awful.”
But in that moment of thinking “I can’t do this”—and deciding to power through anyway—is where some of the most important “wellness” work in your life can happen. “Core awareness is hard and your thighs are burning hard and all of those things are physically arduous, but in that moment when you’re saying, ‘I can’t do this,’ [you have to ask yourself], ‘Is this the only place that I’m saying that?'” says Stanley. “When I started my yoga practice, I didn’t realize that the biggest, most important yoga would happen off of the mat, and that it would require observing and accepting things about myself that historically I haven’t even wanted to look at. Through that acceptance, I think there is a space of coming to terms with and being at peace with yourself, and that’s something that I think is accessible to every human being.”
Sometimes, things are hard—we all learned this in some way this past year—but that doesn’t mean they’re insurmountable. When the going gets tough, Stanley reminds us, do as you do in chair pose: Stay grounded, breathe deeply, and stick it out just a little longer. You can do this.
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